Wadi Qelt (Arabic: وادي القلط; Qelt is also spelled Qilt and Kelt, sometimes with the Arabic article, el- or al-), in Hebrew Nahal Prat (Hebrew: נחל פרת), formerly Naḥal Faran (Pharan brook), is a valley, riverine gulch or stream (Arabic: وادي wādī, "wadi"; Hebrew: נחל, "nahal") in the West Bank, originating near Jerusalem and running into the Jordan River near Jericho, shortly before it flows into the Dead Sea.
The stream flowing eastwards down the valley that cuts through the limestone of the Judean Mountains, has three perennial springs, each with an Arabic and Hebrew name: Ein Farah/En Prat, the largest one; 'Ayn Fawar/En Mabo'a; and the single-named Qelt spring. In Hebrew the entire stream is called Prat; in Arabic though, each sections has its own name: Wadi Fara for the upper section, Wadi Fawar for the middle one, and Wadi Qelt for the lower section.
Wadi Qelt is home to a unique variety of flora and fauna.
Important Bird Area
The 15,000 ha site has been recognised as an Important Bird Area (IBA) by BirdLife International because it supports populations of Eurasian eagle-owls, griffon vultures Bonelli's eagles and lesser kestrels.
St. George's Monastery and the royal winter palace complex built by the Hasmoneans and Herod the Great are located in the Wadi, which has been identified with the biblical Perath mentioned in Jeremiah 13:5.
A tradition holds that the parents of the Virgin Mary have prayed in Wadi Qelt to be blessed with a child. A Cave of St Anne, inhabited by hermits until a few decades ago, is connected to this tradition.
Bronze Age and Iron Age
Hellenistic and Roman periods
Several aqueducts have been found along the stream, the oldest dating to the Hasmonean period (2nd century BCE). The aqueducts transported water from three main springs, down to the plain of Jericho.
The winter palaces of Hasmonean kings and Herod the Great stood at the lower end of the valley, where it reaches the Plain of Jericho. A structure within the Hasmonean royal winter palace, identified by its excavator, Ehud Netzer, as a synagogue, is now known as the Wadi Qelt Synagogue, is believed to be one of the oldest synagogues in the world-- although its identification as a synagogue is contested by many scholars.
Late Roman and Byzantine monasticism
Wadi Qelt contains monasteries and old Christian locations. According to tradition, the first monastic settlement of the Judaean desert, the Pharan lavra, was established by St Chariton the Confessor towards the end of the 3rd century in upper Wadi Qelt, an area known to the Greek Orthodox as Pharan Valley.
The Monastery of Saint George was founded by John of Thebes around 480 AD, and it became an important spiritual centre in the sixth century under Saint George of Choziba. Hermits living in caves in nearby cliffs would meet in the monastery for a weekly mass and communal meal.
Another Byzantine monastery was excavated at the site known in Arabic as Khan Saliba. Its meager remains are located left at the left side of the T-junction of the road connecting the modern Highway 1 with the old road down the Ascent of Adummim (going to the right one reaches Jericho in the plain below.) The 5th-century Monastery of St Adam was built there "for there he stayed and wept at losing Paradise" (Epiphanius). Archaeologists found fine Byzantine mosaics at the former pilgrimage site.
1967 and after
On December 20, 1968, Israeli lieutenant-Colonel Zvi (Tzvika) Ofer, commander of the elite Haruv unit, former Military Governor of Nablus and recipient of the Israeli medal of valour, was killed in action in Wadi Qelt while pursuing Arab militants who had crossed the Jordan.
Israeli, Palestinian and foreign hikers use the partially marked paths along the wadi. Palestinians are generally able to visit when coming from Nablus, Ramallah and Jerusalem without having to pass through checkpoints.
The wadi is used by many Bedouin shepherds. Some Bedouin and residents of Jericho are also earning their livelihood near the Monastery of St George, by offering donkey rides to pilgrims and selling them beverages and souvenirs.
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- Jordan Valley
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